Could Kevin Youkilis have picked a worse time to call out the people of Boston? In the same week that an icon who spent his entire life in the public eye passed away, there was Youk whining about how fans are too negative nowadays. It felt like he was playing the us-versus-them card. It sounded like he doesn’t appreciate a city that puts the Red Sox above all else, including its favorite family.
It was all wrong.
And you just know that right now, Ted Kennedy is somewhere sipping his gin and tonic and wishing Youk would suck it up.
Athletes, of course, are not elected; in places like Boston, they’re actually more like royalty. And aside from Tom Brady and Dustin Pedroia, there might not be anyone more revered by fans than Youkilis. The man is a walking cliché – he’s a grinder, someone who plays every game like it’s the World Series, a guy who gives it all up for the team.
He’s the type of player all kids should model their game after. Except, you know, for the tantrums. No one wants to see their child throwing his helmet after every poor at bat. And no one wants to see their favorite Major Leaguer do it either. Youkilis is to the current Red Sox what Paul O’Neil was to the Yankees in the ‘90s. He’s the guy you want at the plate with the game on the line, but also the guy most likely to throw the water cooler into the crowd when he screws up.
That’s what gets to Sox fans. Youkilis said he feels like he’s portrayed wrongly by the media. But you don’t have to watch a game on NESN or pick up the Globe to find out what piece of equipment broke this time (in fact, he’s probably protected by those outlets a lot of the time) all you have to do is attend a game and it’s all there on display.
He calls it intensity. We call it insanity.
He probably doesn’t know it, but he sounded a lot like Ted Williams when he told Dan Shaughnessy that the thing he loves most about Boston is “from 7 o’clock until the last pitch is thrown.” That’s about the only time Williams felt comfortable in the city as well. He despised the press only slightly more than the fans, who he often compared to a pack of wolves.
But Williams had it much worse. There were seven daily newspapers in the city during his playing days. And they covered sports the way the media in the ‘80s covered Kennedy, always looking for dirt, waiting for the next slipup. They attacked the Splendid Splinter every chance they had. And, you’ll remember, he never won a World Series.
Youkilis already has the ring Williams never won. He’s playing at a time when the fans have never been as loyal and the media has never been as friendly to the team. Hell, the Sox control most of the media. There are probably 20 popular Red Sox blogs and you’ll almost never find any of them criticizing the team. It’s a cakewalk for Youk.
Now Kevin Youkilis has broken the cardinal rule, the one Kennedy never did and the one Williams never cared about: Never turn on the people who want to accept you. Something tells me the rest of his season will be spent more like a politician than a ball player.
In full recovery mode.